DeKALB – To remedy a trend of continued underfunding of DeKalb roads, the Public Works Department is working to develop a comprehensive analysis of what needs to be invested on an annual basis over the next 10 years to maintain the city’s roads.
In 2014, City Engineer John Laskowski evaluated the overall condition of the roads and what kind of an investment would be needed to keep them at a stable level.
Using the pavement condition index, an assessment on a scale from zero to 100 where roads ranking higher than 80 are acceptable, roads between 60 and 80 are in a pre-failing condition and roads 60 or lower are failing, results showed the overall average of DeKalb roads was 78.
However, in order to keep roads at or near this level, it was determined there needs to be a $5 million to $9 million investment a year.
“That was a little bit of a wake-up call for the community, but we didn’t develop a funding mechanism for putting that amount of money into our streets,” DeKalb Public Works Director Tim Holdeman said.
That average is down to 71 today, partly because of the continued underfunding of DeKalb roads.
“We’re falling behind, and the data is showing,” Holdeman said. “A lack of investment in street maintenance has really been an issue for 15 years.”
To find a more sustainable way to maintain the roads, the department is developing a pavement management program, which will determine how to best care for DeKalb’s streets.
“What we’ll do this summer is engage residents and the City Council on a discussion of what level of service they want for their streets,” Holdeman said. “We can understand the community’s desires using the pavement condition index, and we will be able to give the council and residents a cost of how to keep the streets in that condition.”
Holdeman added that this will require a balance between what the community and council desire and what is economically feasible.
“As a practical matter, going from administering a $1 million-a-year program to a $9 million-a-year [program] is a significant leap, but it’s definitely not off the table to incrementally increase the program,” he said.
A majority of annual road funding comes from tax increment financing, which only provides funding for roads within the city’s two TIF districts. These make up about 20 percent of the roughly 130 miles of roads.
In the past five years, roads have received about $1 million in TIF dollars, Holdeman said.
This year, most of the funding is going toward South 10th Street between Locust Street and Route 38, which is receiving more than $211,000; Pine Street between Route 23 and Seventh Street, which is receiving about $185,000; and Taylor Street between Fourth and Seventh, which is receiving about $132,000.
However, DeKalb’s two TIF districts are set to expire in 2019 and 2022, respectively, which Holdeman said has been factored into long-term maintenance plans.
At a City Council Committee of the Whole meeting last month, where Holdeman outlined his street maintenance plans, City Manager Anne Marie Gaura said that TIF funds have been pay as you go up to this point, but as the TIF phaseout draws near, the city might need to borrow money for road maintenance.
The other 80 percent of roads are covered by $200,000 to $300,000 from the city, which Holdeman said is enough to make repairs on two to three blocks a year.
Holdeman said that work on non-TIF streets this year will instead focus on major patching on collector roads such as First Street, Peace Road and Annie Glidden Road.
“Our approach is not to do these half-dozen non-TIF blocks, but to do extensive patching on these collector roads that are getting in pretty bad shape,” he said.
The department has gathered data for a pavement management program for about six years.
Holdeman said analysis of roads involves not only whether the surface of a road is smooth or cracked, but whether the subsurface is strong enough to support the amount of traffic on the road.
“Residential roads handle light loads, while collector and arterial roads are heavier duty, so their design has thicker asphalt to withstand the weight,” Holdeman said. “All those parameters are in the data, and this program makes a suggestion of what kind of activity a road needs, whether it’s a surface treatment, resurfacing or reconstruction.”
The data collection for the program already has been paid for, and the department will be working with Infrastructure Management Systems to produce the necessary analysis of the data and the associated reports. The cost of the analysis is undetermined at this time; however, it is expected to be in the range of $10,000 to $15,000.
Holdeman said that reconstruction, which may require the removal of all asphalt in the road, is about eight times more expensive than surface treatment.